Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

Article Index



By Mike Luckwill

The sources of information for the local historian are many and varied: local documents are preserved in libraries, town halls, planning offices, churches and museums, to say nothing of private wills, diaries and letters.  Old maps are, of course, an important source of knowledge and are usually available for reference at the local museum or library. Those who are interested in the recent history of Mendip, therefore, will probably be familiar with the Ordnance Survey 1” map in the Old Series, in particular Sheet XIX. The recent reprint of this sheet is now available and will undoubtedly enable those of us who have not had the time or inclination to look at before, to pass many evenings enjoying its details. 

Whilst not wishing to spoil the pleasure awaiting those who intend to purchase a copy, or who already have a copy, there are several points of interest in the Priddy area which I would like to mention in order to whet the appetite, perhaps, of future purchasers. Before we look at these, however, there are two points of general interest.  Firstly, local topography was surveyed with a compass and distances were measured by pacing; even so the errors are not, on the whole, greater than a quarter of a mile (cave surveyors take heart!).  Secondly, and perhaps of even more interest to cave surveyors; the surveyors, who were frequently hired locally, were paid by the square mile of satisfactorily completed survey.

Let us now look a Priddy. The first thing that strikes one is that Priddy and Priddy Green appear to be two distinct communities.  Priddy itself consisted of a rectangle of roads, some of which nowadays are only tracks.  Two sides of the rectangle are the present road from the Green and the first twenty yards of Nine Barrows Lane and the south-east corner of the rectangle was occupied by a church.  The road to Townsend stopped at Alan Thomas’ caravan (which appears to be marked) (is he that old? Ed.) and only continues as a track – Townsend did not exist a hundred years ago.  Ashton Drove continued from its present ending (it still continues as a footpath) and went down into Draycott, alternatively it was possible to turn left, into what is now a track known as the Broad Road, and go down into Stoke Rodney (which explains why there was no ‘local bloke’ in those days).  Stoke Wood is marked and the hill above was known as Stoke Warren; Westbury Beacon is marked at 875ft.; that has not moved.  While we are on the ‘Stokes’, the group of houses by the Shepton Hut was called Stoke Hill.

Although many of what were then tracks are now roads, we may take as an example of what was then a road, but is now only a track- Durston Drove.  It has no name on the map, but what is now Higher Pitts Farm was then called Durston.  From Durston a stream is marked flowing down Ebbor Gorge to meet another stream flowing in the valley by the side of Deer Leap (not marked).  In fact one of the first things one notices is that all the valleys on the edge of Mendip, with the exception of Burrington contain streams which rise near their heads.  One of the longest streams rises just below Tynnings Farm and flows into Rowberrow. One wonders how much of this detail was just a logical imagination of the ‘this is a valley, therefore it must contain a stream’ type; especially when one looks at the immense valley marked north of Wookey Hole and extends almost as far as Durston Drove: that certainly is not there today or its stream.  Whilst on the subject of streams we must remark on the complex of little streams in the Swildons area although no swallets are marked or named on the map; the name Wookey Hole is the only indication that there are any caves at all in the area!  The Mineries Pool is marked much further south than it is today – just about where the small depression is by the Belfry track, but no sign exists of the lead works.

This sheet is particularly wealthy as far as archaeological detail is concerned.  Nine Barrows are marked and so are Eight Barrows.  Four Priddy Circles are marked, but not the straight-line that we know them today.  Priddy Hill farm was not in existence and the hill, itself, was called West Hill; Priddy Hill being reserved for the hill to the South-west of Priddy Green.  The Geological Survey was founded in 1832, but the technique of producing electrotype copies of the engravings was not perfected until 1847; geological detail was thus added to the topographical map and consists of dip arrows, horizontal and contorted strata signs, and symbols for the major minerals.

One could go on and on, but I will leave you with a little more searching to do.  The Yeo was called Cheddar Water; the Sheppey was not named but Decoy Rhine was and the position of the decoy is marked.  The Hunters was not marked (shame – Ed.) even as a building, the Blue Bowl and the Castle of Comfort are named.  Younger readers may be surprised at the existence of Heron’s Green, but even older members have not dropped in to the Powder Mill at Moreton in order to charge their shotguns for an early morning on one of the numerous warrens: Charterhouse, Ubley warren, etc., nor will older readers remember Bishport being in the heart of the country (nowadays Bisopworth).  There is no doubt: for avid map readers, Sheet XIX is a must.

(For further details, see Vo.23 p.38 (March 1969 B.B.). 

In addition to Mike’s note in the March B.B. the following maps have now been published (sheets, flat or folded, 15/- ea. From David and Charles, Newton Abbott, Devon): -




Camelford & Hartland Point








Isle of Wight






Bath and Wells




Truro & Lizard Head




Exeter & Dartmouth












Barnstaple & Lundy Island